To say it casts itself, like fisherfolk with their nets, is as apt a description as I can render. Only there are no holes to let light through, only thick, suffocating, blanket-like heaviness to trap you underwater. No one knows where it comes from or how it chooses to settle on you and not a stranger whose flailing would barely create a noticeable tremor in our web. Clinicians speak of perfect storms and chemical imbalances -- the likes of hail and hell you wish and pray were completely beyond conjuring. When the darkness falls heaviest, and your ears and heart begin to funnel words into ever-shrinking strings, let these be the ones sinking all the way to the bottom of your soul, to a place where pain is held by love -- the only power strong enough to not let go: You are love with us. You are love with. You are love. You are. You. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins
There are expenses we regularly calculate, but there are others we ignore. In order to see the big picture, we can't just ask, "How much does it cost to do such-and-such?" or "How much does it cost to not do it?" We must recognize that costs can be attached to more than our wallets. Here are some of the gospel's calculating questions: What will it cost my heart & soul to do or not do this? What will doing or not doing this cost my family? What will this action or inaction cost my neighbor? What will these choices cost the planet? The universe is expanded by gracious choices. It is diminished by greedy ones. The cost is outrageous for all these priceless lives; secretly calculated in hearts too small to hold Love's grand truth; too scared to see all of us have the same value; too busy counting and comparing to feel the ground beneath us quaking, the skies above us tearing. We shrink because we sense difference, recoil with superiority's confidence, while the universe expands and diversifies and the holy one weeps. 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins
(A riff on Acts 2 & Numbers 11) 22.214.171.124 D Numbers 11: 27And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” Spirit, Spirit, wild-eyed wonder; into room and hearts you rushed, tongues of fire and claps of thunder; mouths to ears your burning gushed. Risen one ten days ascended; dif'rence must be set aside; call to hope freshly extended; forgiveness freely applied. Eldad, Medad break out speaking, ut’ring truths as yet untold. Call on Moses, "Stop the leaking; they're too brazen, far too bold!" Rules braided in hangman's tight noose, keeping others in their place, now untwisted, completely loose, making room for gushing grace. To be sure, and not be unfair, faith soars high on earth's quaking, mercy pours richly everywhere with Spirit's new inbreaking. Millennia have waxed and waned since holy fire filled the air. As Peter's tongue boldly explained, ears of fire are everywhere! Fill our spirits from your deep reach with connection, love, and care; give us hearts and voices to preach grace’s story everywhere. Give us, O torch sent wild and free, strength to withstand all danger, risking all we are and can be welcoming knocking stranger. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
“Observe the drama; don't be the drama.” On the beach, you can remove your sandals and walk parallel to the ocean, letting the waves lap at your feet when they're at their weakest – the turning point – just before the water's energy pulls it back toward the edge of earth and sky. The wet and not-wet, soft and firm sand at the edge of the tide is holy ground. Further inland, from which daily existence seems to call, it feels like burning bushes are more common, and our feet quickly begin to scorch as we are pulled from fire to fire. Fire-walkers will tell you that, even with seasoned soles, we must wait for the ash to form over the smoldering coals before we dare to pass over someone else's drama. I think this requires sitting and listening longer, moving and speaking less. Maybe it also requires love. Perhaps there is no true resurrection without love, because, sans the particularity of deep-marrow knowing and being known, bringing back people from the dead is a parlor trick at best, and Groundhog Day at worst, in which we have to suffer the same anonymous meaninglessness of life over and over, convinced that a single detail changed will somehow create a fairy tale life. Let us love deeply; deeper today than yesterday; deeper tomorrow than today; deeper giving than we've received; deeper from the tomb than we can imagine escaping. Yes, deeply, for this is how we find ourselves being raised out of that which never really approached life anyway. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Momming is identified, not by biology, but by its web of care, its haven of hope, its manuscript of guidance, its blanket of prayer, its fire of indignation, its roots of relationship, its watering can of nurture, its stove of nourishment, its taxi of deliverance (and sometimes rescue), its bottomless bucket of belief, its bone-deep compassion and grief, its purse of support, its sermon of conviction, its cheer of encouragement, and quite a few more that often fade into the backdrop. A toast to you, and all the ways you've mommed us: may your spiritual DNA keep the universe expanding toward grace! © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home, and ate their food with glad and generous hearts… (Acts 2:46)
This past Sunday’s sermon was from Acts 2:42-47. The sermon title was “Glad and Generous Hearts” (from 2:46). This week, after the sermon (of course!), I saw the sermon come to life.
Patrick (pictured above) is a 24 year old student in Malawi. He is studying to become a midwife, and dreams of opening an orphanage after he graduates, to care for the many parentless children in his country. Patrick is an orphan whose parents died years ago (dad in 1998, and mom in 2006). He is raising three younger siblings.
Here is a photo of his family: Patrick, his sister Thandie, brother Madziko, and sister Dorothy. A fifth sibling, a brother, died last year because there was no money to pay for medicine to treat his malaria.
A pastor friend of mine (who oversees a mission organization pairing US partners with orphans in nearby Rwanda) is paying Patrick’s tuition each semester, with whatever money he makes from part-time side-work reselling vintage items he finds in thrift stores, and other “found” money that materializes on occasion.
A few people in one of the small congregations I serve are pitching-in to provide educational uniforms and fees, as well as a small amount of money for food, for his two youngest siblings. Without funds for their education, they have been unable to attend school. Thandie, Patrick’s oldest sister, has finished secondary school and dreams of attending university to become a licensed caregiver for people with special needs (mentally and physically challenged), but there are no funds for her college education now.
This picture is of Patrick and two other orphans from his community. When he was home on break from school this week, he met these two, six year-old Innocent, and nine year-old Innocecia. He spent his own money to buy them clothes, shoes, books, school supplies, and food.
Whenever I imagine that I don’t have enough money to share with others, Patrick’s story helps me keep things in perspective. It reminds me that the human heart holds the world’s greatest treasures: love, compassion, and generosity.
© 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins
To borrow a book title from one of my seminary professors, Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Finally Comes the Poet.
space-maker, mold-breaker, heart-shaker…
thought-drifter, shape-shifter, dream-sifter…
bell-ringer, tear-bringer, sweat-wringer…
trip-booker, fresh-looker, love-cooker…
beast-tamer, peace-framer, grace-namer…
risk-taker, earth-quaker, hope-baker…
© 2017 Todd Jenkins
Yes, we feel numbers being flung at us from the budget, as well as the calendar, and the clock, like the daggers from a stage act, and we swear we've never seen the blindfolded wielder before. But while we're bobbing and weaving, clinging to the hope that we'll make it to next year and beyond with a modicum of courage, sanity, and purpose, I have a few molasses-freezing questions; ones that might unpack a dream we don't remember. They seem to me to be the kind of questions that our revered institutions must face in this particular time and place: What if we found out that the thing we financially couldn't afford to do was the very thing we organizationally and existentially couldn't afford not to do? To put it another way: Which costs matter most, and how will we count them? What risks must we take in order to face the future with integrity? © 2017 Todd Jenkins
They demanded and even forced your labor, offering no or little wages. Silly me; I assured myself I was doing comparatively well, and somebody had to be at the bottom, mostly glad it wasn't me. They took your dignity, with images and cultural narratives painting you as lesser, or airbrushing you out of the picture altogether. Foolish me; I looked in the mirror and saw the right shade and shape, assuming I still had shreds of my own remaining. They kicked you out by banning and deportation, as if culture, language, and religion were legitimate wedges. Trembling me; I fell for scapegoating, ignoring the malignancy of systemic dis-ease. They broke your spirit, kicking you in the gut with insufficient opportunities, boot on your throat with charges of laziness. Ignorant me; I thought I could prop mine up with consumption and dogged pursuit, not of my dreams, but of what they told me to desire. They're here to steal your soul, and it slices through my own, clearly awakening me to our eternal tether. Now, I realize I've been a part of "they" all along, with my blind eye, my silence, my privilege, my vested interest votes. Maybe we can't go back, but I know that, wherever we must go from here, it will have to be together. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Painting by Rosalind Golden Saline
Surely light years beyond wildest hopes and deepest imaginations, he is raised, not just from the tomb, but also from the debasing of mocking, the torture of scourging, and the excruciating execution of crucifixion. Was his appearance nearly incognito because of the impossibility of it all, or because transcending death alters persona far beyond human fathomability? Perhaps it was both. His face, tilted skyward, eyes closed, no longer in agony, now in serenity. His skin at one and the same time ashen, yet fully thrushed with life; its shading defies ethnocentric limitations. His lips, resting in a fashion best-described as tranquility. Completely antithetical to terrestrial powers that sought his demise via violence, his presence exudes a gentleness only love can elicit; right hand lowered and open, both revealing a lack of animosity and weaponry, and clearly displaying still-fresh wounds, beckoning us toward our own deepest healing; his left hand pointing heavenward, living water flowing from it, new life springing up from a parched desert floor; light bursting from above, revealing creation’s eternally-held dream. Last, but also perhaps first, the robe; swirling transfiguration's glow with stone-rolling angel's ensemble; but even those two foreshadowings are inadequate descriptions of its hope-infused cloud. Sit with the elements; letting life's river wash over you, divine wind swirl your heart, and corpus of unconditional love carry you into the grace of each tomorrow's resurrection. © 2017 Todd Jenkins